Ecker Hill presents "Fiddler on the Roof"
November 6, 2009
They may be called drama geeks, but the sixth- and seventh-grade students starring in Ecker Hill International Middle School’s production of "The Fiddler on the Roof" could care less.
The cast members have sacrificed sleeping in and forgone participating in other sports and activities to get to their time in the spotlight. One student even pushed back knee surgery so that she could act in the play.
"We might be drama geeks, but we’re loud and proud," says seventh grader Caitlin Lanzel.
The group of about 40 students has been rehearsing before school for more than two months in preparation for their stage debut.
Next weekend, they’ll finally get their chance to shine. Ecker Hill will present performances of "Fiddler on the Roof" Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12-14, at 6:30 p.m. in the school auditorium.
The play is an abbreviated version of the classic Broadway musical. The plot revolves around Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman played by Tucker Mirams and his efforts to marry off his daughters in the midst of pre-revolutionary, anti-Semitic Russia.
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To get comfortable with their roles, the student actors learned the history behind the characters and the time period. Director Rebecca Webber, the music and drama teacher at Ecker Hill, invited Rabbi Josh Aaronson from Temple Har Shalom to talk to the kids about Jewish lifestyles and history.
"I learned that you wouldn’t be able to pick your own husband," says Emma Fox, a seventh-grader who plays Chava, one of Tevye’s five daughters. "That would be really weird."
For most of the cast members, "Fiddler" is not the first acting gig on their resume. Many have been involved in Youtheatre productions at the Egyptian Theatre and take singing and dance lessons in Park City.
Lauren Livingston, who plays another daughter, Hodel, says she likes acting because, "You get to be a different person for a little while."
The students say they get nervous that they’ll flub their lines, but once they get on stage, the adrenaline takes over. "The best part about theatre is that buzz you get," says Lanzel, who plays the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. "You think, ‘How am I ever going to remember all these lines?’ But then it just happens."
Even if they do make mistakes, the students know it’s not the end of the world. "Overall, the thing I’ve learned from acting is you don’t make the same mistake twice, you make it three or four times," Lanzel explains. Even if something goes terribly wrong, she and Fox have made a pact to divert the audience’s attention by bursting into song.
And if their spontaneous rendition doesn’t happen, the audience will still get to hear plenty of musical renderings. The tunes in "Fiddler" are catchy and contagious ("Matchmaker matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch").
Other highlights of the show include
the authentic costuming (thanks to a group of dedicated stage moms), a handful of carefully choreographed dances, and soliloquies that people may one day look back on as a famous actor’s first big break.
"People think it’s just a school play, but it’s more than that," says Lanzel.
"The play is going to be completely and utterly amazing," says Fox. "We put a lot of time into it."
"We’ve worked really hard," adds Livingston.
The students hope to look out into a packed auditorium on the nights of the performances. "It’s for ages all over from one day old to 100 years old," says sixth-grader Hana Gottlieb.
But mom and dad try to refrain from shouting your child’s name or engaging in rapid-fire flash photography. "It can be so embarrassing," says Gottlieb.
Tickets for the play are $4 for students, $5 for adults or $15 for a family or four. Tickets may be purchased at the door starting at 6 p.m.